208. Making Money

Making money: it’s a difficult easy thing to do.

It’s an easy thing to do. There are plenty of things to do that people would pay money for: serving coffee. Late night shifts. Flipping burgers. Data entry. Phone calls to make sales. Failing all of the above, there’s always a position waiting in a government office somewhere for you to fill.

It’s also a difficult thing to do. Because we want to do what we want to do, dammit. We don’t want to be bored. We don’t want to be underpaid. We don’t want to travel too far. We don’t want to work with people we don’t get along with. We don’t want to go to work when it’s dark and return home when the sun rises.

It’s an easy difficult thing to do, making money.

In the months before I graduated, I thought I had my future more or less figured out. Well, as figured out as I could at 22 years old. If I couldn’t find a decent writing job, I thought I’d take up a job as a barista in a nearby cafe. Meeting people from all around should make for pretty good writing material, I thought. I also toyed with the idea of doing coolie work with any one of the production companies scattered all around Kuala Lumpur. At least if I’m not selling scripts, I can still learn the tools of the trade.

(that second one actually still sounds pretty good)

The moment I hit 2014, however, my dad dropped the load he’s been carrying for me right over my head. I was driving a friend to a birthday party when my car began to jerk, and there was a burning smell from somewhere. It smelled like an electrical fire. I stopped the car by the side of the road, and deduced that there was something wrong with the engine.

(actual line from a story I wrote: “It wasn’t like he was an expert when it came to cars, but as long as nothing was on fire, he figured that it should be safe enough…”. I subscribe to this way of thought)

The car was left there overnight, and the next day I took it to a nearby workshop, where they told me that it’ll cost close to RM500 to fix the thing. My dad looked at me, and in not too many words, told me that I’ll have to pay for it myself.

The idea of selling enough coffees to make RM500 crossed my mind. I suddenly found it to be a very bad idea.

Which was how I ended up with my present job. I needed to do the difficult easy thing that is making money. Since no one was fighting to buy my stories, it was what I had to work with.

But things are beginning to change, it seems. I just sold my first short story to a magazine at a rate of 22 cents per word. A bunch of fellows I’ve worked with in the past are getting projects that they’d like me to be involved in. I completed the writing of Noir Blues and got the contact of a script reader.

(I calculated: at 22 cents per word, a writer will have to write about 5 marketable words to make a ringgit. Let’s say comfortable living is making RM10,000 a month. That’s 50,000 marketable words, or 1,778 marketable words per day in a 30-day month. It’s no wonder the writers who actually manage to turn their craft into a comfortable living write at least 2,000 words every day)

Fingers crossed for the future. May my writing bring me good money.

I think I’ve learned a little bit in the past 2 months of working. Not from the workplace, but from reflection. If I can sum up my life’s goal in a sentence, it’d be this: write stories for a living. Presently, I do those two – just separately. I write stories, and I make a living. It’s only a matter of time, I hope, until the 2 realize that they belong together.

Like a romantic drama. Except without the kisses. Definitely without the copulation.

I realize that I’ve been behaving like a spoiled brat in the first month of the year, kicking up one hell of a tantrum when life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, when I wanted it to. I think the lesson there was patience. And trust. And a bunch of other hippie stuff that sounds really corny even right now, but corny doesn’t make it any less true.

So again. Fingers crossed. If I make good money with my writing, I shall throw a big party. If none of these things manage to get through, I’ll keep away the party sets, and keep my job.

And of course, I’ll keep writing.


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